CALDWELL, NJ - Much in the same way that many folks from Alabama (which stands 49th of the fifth states in myriad important categories) can say: “Hey, at least we're not from Mississippi,” which is quite often at the bottom of the heap, the girls cagers contingent from James Caldwell High School were proudly able to boast, “Hey, we may be 1-1, but, at least we're not 0-2 or 0-3,” which happened to be the record of the other two girls cagers contingent from the Caldwells prior to holiday tournament time.
Not that an aggregate mark of 1-6 so far for the three hoops squads from the Caldwells was in any way something to be proud of, at least it's better than 0-7.
In the first win - and only to that point, posted by any Caldwells area club this year, the Lady Chiefs vanquished Verona, 42-33, on Tuesday night, Dec. 22, at VHS. In that outing, the locals led 12-4 at the end of initial eight minutes of play, 19-11 at the intermission and 30-24 heading into the final frame. The Lady Chiefs' five starters were Nicolette Tufano, a 5-5 senior point guard who recorded a dozen points, three assists and two caroms corralled, Kelly Pierce, a 5-6 senior two guard and the club's best defender (8 pts, 3 rbs, 3 assists, four steals), 5-4 junior three-guard Brittany Costigan (2 pts, 2 rbs, 2 steals), 5-9 Alyssa DeBlasis, a senior forward who totaled 14 points, including two treys, four boards, two helps, one theft and one block, and 5-11 junior center Rachel Galante. The list of others who saw action in the victimization of Verona includes junior Phoebe Bledsoe (2 assists, 2 steals) and two junior forwards: Taylor Bryant (4 pts, 5 rbs) and Caroline Coughlin.
“Beating Verona was big for us and may just have given us the confidence to know that we might just have a good chance to win the holiday tournament, since we play Verona in the first round again on Monday,” said fifth-year JCHS head coach Ryu Saito at that time, referring to his team's odds of earning the title at the annual West Essex Area Holiday Hoops Festival, which opened yesterday, Monday, Dec. 28, and is slated to finish today, Tuesday, Dec. 29, at Caldwell University.

As things turned out, truer words were never spoken, as Saito's squad victimized Verona again, this time 49-33, in the first round of WEAHHF on Monday afternoon. That outcome pushed the now 2-1 Lady Chiefs into today's title tilt, which is set for 5:30 p.m., when the JCHS girls will battle crosstown competitor West Essex Regional.
Caldwell basically won the tourney game against now 0-3 Verona on the strength of a stunning 24 points scored in the first frame, the most by a JCHS girls cagers contingent in memory or perhaps ever.
At the end of the initial eight minutes of play, the locals led by 16 points, 24-8, en route to a that eventual same margin in the final score.
“Caldwell (University) is a great venue and it's so close, it's great for the kids, the parents and the fans and it's a really treat for everyone involved,” said Saito, adding, “as I like to say, if you're going to do something, do it up and do it right.”